Sunday Night Jazz: Toshiko Akiyoshi

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Trayvon Martin and a boy named Emmitt Till

Almost 60 years ago when I was a little kid, there was a teenage boy named Emmitt Till.

The summer of 1955 I was just about to start third grade, that year when that young man, a boy really was brutally murdered and mutilated. It happened in a town called Money, Mississippi. After they mutilated and murdered that sweet innocent looking young man they threw his body in  body in the Tallahatchie River.

Now I remember an entire Civil Rights Movement rising up in righteous anger.  Emmitt Till’s murder and  millions of other racist abuses and indignities had finally led people to stand up and say, “Enough.”

The Civil Rights Movement had been there from before the Civil War when the first Black newspapers were founded, from the time of Fredrick Douglass and Sojourner Truth.

But in the 1950s and 1960s for a few short years it looked like the people of America both Black and White were finally ready to have that honest dialogue about racial injustice.

A large percentage of liberal progressive white people seemed ready to try to end the horrible injustice that was being done to black people.

But the Movement lost sight of the prize.

Perhaps our own internalized racism was too powerful.  Perhaps we fractured into identity based politics.

Perhaps the propaganda that wanted to perpetuate racism was too powerful.

Perhaps it was the war in Vietnam that distracted us.

I look at the schools in the inner cities, starved for funding while the well to do white kids go to private schools  (Charter Schools) in suburban communities.

I look at the Prison Industrial Complex and how it has become a gulag for young black men.

I look at the Drug Trade and the hypocritical “War on Drugs”.  The war that ignores those who make and launder the huge profits while imprisoning the poor of all races.

The howling Banshees of Right Wing Radio openly peddle their racism, wearing suits instead of the more appropriate robes and hoods.

I’ve watched the ramping up of fear, the use of code words that thinly veil the racism.

First Nixon then Reagan and the Bushs and all the other neo-Klansmen  is expensive designer suits, with their oily manners and coy racist way of speaking that implies that all white people should be on their side.

The murder of Trayvon Martin was a wake up call.  Perhaps…  I mean there have been so many others… Maybe this outrage will rekindle the fires of righteous anger.

I’m old now.  So many years have passed since that summer of 55.  I’ve been part of so many movements since then.  I’ve seen the failure of identity politics.

But maybe the time has come for all the people who say that this sort of racism and all the other ism that make one group of people less human than another group is wrong and that if all the minority groups unite together perhaps we can bring about a country, a world wit liberty, justice and equality for all.

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Occupy Wall Street plans return to spotlight – but in what form?

From The Guardian UK:

Demonstrators torn over whether to concentrate on economic inequality or to move towards protesting police brutality, Friday 23 March 2012

Occupy Wall Street returned to the public spotlight this week following the largest mass arrest of its supporters since the movement was evicted from its home base in November.

Last weekend’s events, including a female protester apparently having a seizure while handcuffed – combined with numerous accounts of excessive police force – have been described by many protesters as some of the most violent in Occupy history. A New York Daily News reporter on the scene said the New York City police was “out of control”.

This weekend, occupiers plan to push back.

In a press conference earlier this week, Occupy participants and community groups that have long criticised the NYPD demanded the resignation of the commissioner, Ray Kelly. On Saturday, Occupy organisers will call on victims of police abuse to join them in a mass demonstration aimed at denouncing a wide range of NYPD policies and practices.

The action will be held in combination with the United Nations’ international day for the right to the truth concerning gross human rights violations and for the dignity of victims.

The activists argue that the event is not about Occupy Wall Street, but is a wider critique of NYPD tactics city-wide, particularly in low-income and black communities.

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The Democratic Party Is Embracing Marriage Equality

From The Huffington Post:

Founder, Truth Wins Out

The Democratic Party is beginning to embrace marriage equality in a significant way. This week, former President Jimmy Carter, a born-again Christian who teaches Sunday school and just wrote a new book on the Bible, came out in favor of allowing gays to wed:

Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things — he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the notorious Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that still relegates gay couples to second-class citizenship. But in May 2011 Clinton endorsed marriage equality:

Our nation’s permanent mission is to form a “more perfect union” — deepening the meaning of freedom, broadening the reach of opportunity, strengthening the bonds of community. That mission has inspired and empowered us to extend rights to people previously denied them. Every time we have done that, it has strengthened our nation. Now we should do it again, in New York, with marriage equality. For more than a century, our Statue of Liberty has welcomed all kinds of people from all over the world yearning to be free. In the 21st century, I believe New York’s welcome must include marriage equality.

While at a New York City campaign stop on Monday, Michelle Obama said that LGBT people should vote for her husband because Supreme Court appointees will have an affect on “whether we can … love whomever we choose.”

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Reflections on the right to water as we move towards Rio+20

From The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy:

by Shiney Varghese
March 22, 2012

Today, even as the world celebrates World Water Day, some countries at the United Nations are trying to remove the reference to the “right to water” from a document that will guide the international development path in the coming decade.

It was less than two years ago, in the summer of 2010, that the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution recognizing water as a human right. This was followed by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) adopting a resolution on “human rights and access to safe drinking water and sanitation,” which made these rights legally binding. The recognition of the right to water at these U.N. bodies, and the developments since, such as the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on right to water and the resolution by the World Health Assembly recognizing right to water, have helped place water rights on the global agenda.

These successes were partly the result of collective efforts of water justice activists over the last 10 years. IATP’s own advocacy on right to water was a direct response to the reference to water as a “need” [instead of a right], in the Ministerial Declaration of the 2nd World Water Forum in 2000.

But these efforts have been met with consistent pushback. The efforts to undermine the recognition of the right to water have been most visible at the triennial World Water Forum. Starting with the second World Water Forum in 2000, it has steadfastly refused to recognize the right to water. This was the case at the third World Water Forum in 2003 (which followed the U.N. General Comment in 2002 on right to water), at the fourth World Water Forum in 2006 (where several governments led by Bolivia asked that the Ministerial recognize water as a human right) and at the fifth World Water Forum (to which the UNGA president sent a letter affirming the need to recognize water as a human right, and at which 24 governments came out with counter-declaration recognizing water as a human right).

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Christo-Fascist Bryan Fischer: GLAAD’s McCarthyite Blacklist Proves They are Nazis

From Right Wing Watch:

by Kyle Mantyla
Thu, 03/22/2012

Bryan Fischer was on vacation last week when GLAAD unveiled its Commentator Accountability Project, so he didn’t get a chance to officially weigh in on the project or his inclusion among the commentators GLAAD is tracking until he returned to the studio yesterday.

And responding was among the first things he did, calling it McCarthyism and a black list and proof that the AFR Talk is the most feared and most dangerous radio network in America because it represented the greatest threat to the “gay agenda.”

Fischer eventually weighed in on some of the past statements he had made that got him included in the project in the first place, and defended them all, claiming that the project itself proves that he is right when he said that gay activists are exactly like Nazis:

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Paranoia Strikes Deeper

From The New York Times:

By March 22, 2012

Stop, hey, what’s that sound? Actually, it’s the noise a great political party makes when it loses what’s left of its mind. And it happened — where else? — on Fox News on Sunday, when Mitt Romney bought fully into the claim that gas prices are high thanks to an Obama administration plot.

This claim isn’t just nuts; it’s a sort of craziness triple play — a lie wrapped in an absurdity swaddled in paranoia. It’s the sort of thing you used to hear only from people who also believed that fluoridated water was a Communist plot. But now the gas-price conspiracy theory has been formally endorsed by the likely Republican presidential nominee.

Before we get to the larger implications of this endorsement, let’s get the facts on gas prices straight.

First, the lie: No, President Obama did not say, as many Republicans now claim, that he wanted higher gasoline prices. He did once say that a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions would cause electricity prices to “skyrocket” — an unfortunate word choice. But saying that such a system would raise energy prices was just a factual statement, not a declaration of intent to punish American consumers. The claim that Mr. Obama wanted higher prices is a lie, pure and simple.

And it’s a lie wrapped in an absurdity, because the president of the United States doesn’t control gasoline prices, or even have much influence over those prices. Oil prices are set in a world market, and America, which accounts for only about a tenth of world production, can’t move those prices much. Indeed, the recent rise in gas prices has taken place despite rising U.S. oil production and falling imports.

Finally, there’s the paranoia, the belief that liberals in general, and Obama administration officials in particular, are trying to make driving unaffordable as part of a nefarious plot against the American way of life. And, no, I’m not exaggerating. This is what you hear even from thoroughly mainstream conservatives.

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What the Castle Doctrine & ALEC have to do with Trayvon Martin

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Thousands of U.S. atheists turn out for ‘Reason Rally’

From Raw Story:

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, March 24, 2012

Thousands of atheists, agnostics and other non-believers turned out in the US capital on Saturday to celebrate their rejection of the idea of God and to claim a bigger place in public life.

The Reason Rally, sponsored by 20 atheist, secular and humanist groups, was billed as a “coming-out” party in the heart of Washington for a segment of the American population that is growing faster than any religious group.

“There are too many people in this country who have been cowed into fear of coming out as atheists, secularists or agnostics,” said the event’s star turn, Richard Dawkins, the British scientist and best-selling atheist author.

“We are far more numerous than anybody realizes,” said Dawkins, prompting cheers from the youthful crowd that defied sporadic drizzle for an afternoon of speeches, music and satire on the National Mall.

Jesse Galef of the Secular Student Alliance, a spokesman for the rally, told AFP he conservatively estimated the turnout at 10,000.

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Reversing the Sixties: The 2012 Republican Agenda

From Common Dreams:

by Bob Burnett
Published on Friday, March 23, 2012 by Common Dreams

One of the most surprising aspects of contemporary Republican politics has been their across-the-board attack on women’s health services and women’s rights. Rather than an isolated misogynistic program, these attacks should be viewed as one part of a conservative agenda to role back gains made in the sixties.

Recently, MoveOn reported Top 10 Shocking Attacks from the GOP’s War on Women ranging from changing the definition of rape to denying abortions in all circumstances to limiting access to contraception to defunding preschool programs and family planning agencies. It’s not only the women’s movement that’s being attacked, but also the civil-rights movement, the consumer movement, the environmental movement, and the gay-rights movement. All the accomplishments of the sixties are under attack by Republicans. They’ve returned to the conservative ideological framework that worked for them up until the McCain-Palin campaign.

Beginning in the Reagan Administration, Republicans attacked a so-called “liberal culture of permissiveness” they claimed had been unleashed by the social events of the sixties. They accused Democrats of espousing “sixties values” which they equated with “if it feels good, do it.” Republicans declared that a mythical liberal attack on traditional values produced many of America’s problems such as poverty, promiscuity, and drug use. In 1993, conservative scholar Myron Magnet produced the seminal expression of this philosophy, ”The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties Legacy to the Underclass”. Magnet argued that liberal ideology promoted a “culture of victimization” that held “the poor back from advancement by robbing them of responsibility for their fate and thus further squelching their initiative and energy.” The book influenced George W. Bush, who told the Wall Street Journal “it was the most important book he’d ever read, after the Bible.”

The Republican belief that liberalism fostered a culture of victimization strongly influenced the Bush Administration’s domestic and foreign policy. Combined with faith that the free market would inevitably solve most social problems, Bush’s conservatism produced a potpourri of aberrant social policies: Don’t give poor children free lunches or special tutoring because that will enhance their sense of being victims. Don’t provide women with birth control because that will cause them to become promiscuous. Don’t provide clean needles for drug users because that will legitimize their behavior. And so forth.

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Muslim Woman Beaten to Death in Hate Crime (California) – She Died on March 24th 2012

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Three Plead Guilty to Hate Crimes in Killing of Black Man in Mississippi

From The New York Times:

Published: March 22, 2012

ATLANTA — Federal hate-crime charges for the racially motivated murder of James C. Anderson in Jackson, Miss., were unsealed Thursday, leading to three guilty pleas from white men who admitted they used to drive into the city from a neighboring county determined to find blacks to assault.

In a series of court hearings orchestrated by state and federal prosecutors, Deryl Dedmon, 19, and his friends John A. Rice, 18, and Dylan Butler, 20, were charged in the morning in United States District Court in Jackson with one count each of conspiracy and one of violating Mr. Anderson’s civil rights. They pleaded guilty in the afternoon.

They face up to five years for the conspiracy charge and up to life for the hate-crime violations. It was the first time the new federal hate-crime law, enacted in 2009, has been used in the Deep South.

The law expanded the definition of hate crimes and allowed broader cooperation between states and the federal government.

On Wednesday, Mr. Dedmon admitted in state court that he drove his truck over Mr. Anderson, 47, in a motel parking lot just before dawn last June 26. He was sentenced to two life sentences without a chance for parole.

The murder, whose race-based implications were slow to surface, shot to national prominence when surveillance video surfaced. In it, Mr. Anderson could be seen stumbling and then being struck by a Ford F-250 with Mr. Dedmon at the wheel.

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